I wouldn't go so far as to say Romney looked relaxed and confident in last night's GOP debate--he never looks relaxed and confident--but it was a much more effective performance than his others of late. This time it was Gingrich's turn to be feeble. Romney slapped him down very effectively on investments in Fannie and Freddie. (a) What is it about "blind trust" you don't understand? (b) Aside from being on their payroll, don't you have mutual-fund investments in Fannie and Freddie too? Despite having raised the subject, Gingrich didn't appear to know. He just stood there.
Grandiosity may be going out of style too. Moon Unit Gingrich didn't appear to get off the ground. And Romney's complaint that Gingrich offers each state he visits some huge new publicly financed project hit home.
Romney was good rebutting the "anti-immigrant" charge. He called it repulsive and almost looked as though he meant it. Of course, he still needs a good immigration policy, but who doesn't? Also, for the first time he began to look nearly unapologetic as he insisted he would make no apology for being successful. This posture needs more work. He could use a better tax reform plan as well. If he gets the nomination this will obviously be Obama's principal line of attack. "How dare you be so rich?" might bounce off. "How come you pay so little in tax?" is more problematic. Still, he's moving in the right direction.
Ron Brownstein at National Journal makes some characteristically shrewd observations, including this one:
All of the Republican contenders may be fortunate that former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush decided not to seek the nomination this year. After Fred Malek, the big Republican fund-raiser and one of the group's founders, introduced Bush at the HLN event by asking the audience whether his resume made him sound "like somebody who would maybe make a good president," Bush delivered a personable, engaging and even intimate speech about opportunity and inclusion that held the audience rapt. And that was after holding a press availability in which he toggled between English and fluent Spanish for the press corps. The public may need some time before it accepts another Bush, but his short appearance left no doubt that he remains a major political talent. If Florida Sen. Marco Rubio is serious about his insistence that he doesn't want to run as vice president, Bush could be an attractive alternative with potentially substantial appeal not only in Florida, but in the Hispanic community elsewhere.